After opening the season with a victory over Northwestern State, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga volleyball team has struggled to find success on the court.
UTC will bring a six-match losing streak into just-refurbished Maclellan Gym today as the host team of the Country Inns & Suites Invitational. The tournament also includes UNC Asheville, Tennessee Tech and East Tennessee State.
Despite the lack of wins, first-year head coach Travis Filar remains upbeat about the Lady Mocs' progress as they continue to adapt to a new routine and new style of play.
"What I like about this team is we are going to improve all year," he said. "And I think we'll be playing our best volleyball at the end of the year.
"We're not there yet. We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to do. But on the flip side, our kids are continually buying into what it's going to take to continue to improve."
UTC's losses include 3-2 defeats in its home opener against Belmont on Aug. 30 and its most recent match against Winthrop, last Saturday at Kennesaw State's tournament.
Filar continues to stress that the Lady Mocs need to battle hard for every point, win or lose.
"We have limitations, just like every team in America," he said. "It's about understanding what our limitations are ... but limitations aside, we have to make sure that we are high energy and high effort all the time."
Middle blocker Ellie Kuhn has been one of the bright spots for UTC. The senior from San Antonio, Texas, had a career-best 21 kills against Belmont and was selected to the all-tournament team at Kennesaw.
The team's only senior said it's only a matter of time before the hard work in practice pays off with victories on the court, and she sees an opportunity for the Lady Mocs this weekend.
"Our goal as a team is to win the whole tournament," Kuhn said. "If we compete, the wins will come. If we play to our potential every game, the wins and losses will equal out. I think if we bring the competitive aspect that we have as a team and our determination, that we will win this tournament."
Filar is looking forward to this weekend's tournament and the opportunity his team will have to continue to improve.
"It's an exciting weekend for UTC athletics with football being home and we have three great matches," he said. "All four teams that will be here at Maclellan this weekend are very even. I would not doubt if every match is four or five sets long.
"It will be fun to be home in front of our people and in front of our fans."
The Country Inns & Suites Invitational will start this morning at 11, and UTC will take on ETSU at 6 p.m. On Saturday, the Lady Mocs will take on Tennessee Tech, with freshman Hayli Raines from Soddy-Daisy on TTU's roster, at 10 a.m. before wrapping up the tournament against UNC-Asheville at 4 p.m. Admission is free to all sessions.
Jim Tanner has worked as assistant sports editor at the Times Free Press since late 2006. He started at the Times Free Press in 2001 and worked as a news copy/design editor from 2001 through 2006. In addition to working as a night and weekend editor producing local and national sports coverage for print and online readers, Jim occasionally writes local sports and outdoors stories. Jim grew up in Ringgold, Ga., and is a graduate ...